Miller South in Westside Leader

Miller South in Westside Leader
Posted on 11/05/2018
Entertainment & Lifestyle

Miller South students presenting ‘Stories of the Kindertransport’

11/1/2018 - West Side Leader
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By Cassaundra Smith


Pictured rehearsing a scene, from left, are Miller South students Carmen Meeker, playing Faith; Malinda Riffle, playing Evelyn; Donovan Shaeffer, playing the Ratcatcher; and Avery Langenfeld, playing Lil Miller.
Photo courtesy of Alex Funk
WEST AKRON — For more than a month, Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts students have been hard at work preparing to stage the drama, “Stories of the Kindertransport.”


The performances will take place in Miller South’s Margo Snider Auditorium Nov. 8 at 9 a.m. and Nov. 9-10 at 7:30 p.m. While the Thursday show also serves as a school matinee for students to view, it is open to the public.

According to Akron Public Schools officials, between 1938 until the outbreak of World War II, nearly 10,000 Jewish children were taken from their families in Nazi-occupied Germany and sent to live with foster families in Britain. Diane Samuels’ play, which premiered in the United Kingdom in 1993, delves into the life of one child survivor, intertwining fact and fiction, and exploring past and present.

“The year 2018 marks the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport and the 25th anniversary of this play,” said Miller South theater teacher Alex Funk in a press release. “Given the emotional journey of the production’s characters and its painful relevance to current events, ‘Kindertransport’ isn’t an easy show for middle-schoolers to undertake. But the story is an important reminder that we must learn from history to keep from repeating it.”

According to Funk, the main storyline of the play centers around a character named Eva, who is around 9 years old. It chronicles her journey and arrival in England and her feelings about her mother in Germany, as well as her adopted English mother. The mother-daughter relationship theme continues as the play flashes forward to show Eva, who has now changed her name to Evelyn, and her daughter, Faith, as she learns of all her mother has been through.

Students cast in the play began rehearsing Sept. 28. Funk began by trying to determine their knowledge of the Holocaust.

“I asked the cast, “Who has heard of the Holocaust, and about half of their hands went up,” he said.

When Funk asked who could explain what the Holocaust was, all of the students’ hands went down. That is no longer the case for the students involved with the play, as at their leisure, students were able to prepare for their roles by reading “Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport,” as well as viewing the accompanying documentary, he said.

“I think through this whole process they have a much better grasp of the Holocaust and especially children in the Holocaust,” he said.

Also as part of the rehearsal process, the cast participated in the “Face-to-Face” program sponsored by Congregation Shaarey Tikvah in Beachwood, through which students were introduced to a man who was a part of the Kindertransport, Funk said. Students got to take part in a question-and-answer session, during which they asked questions that to adults might seem silly, but to Funk they were “very honest questions.”

“I felt that they took what he had to say, internalized it and were able to ask questions that impacted them,” he said.

Funk said he was a part of a production of “Kindertransport” when he was in high school. While he was already familiar with what the Holocaust was, he felt the story was a deeper dive into the humanitarian efforts of those who were willing to lend a helping hand.

“There are a lot of things in this show that can really speak to things going on today,” he said.

He notes that while the Holocaust may be a specific, horrific incident, there still exists hatred, jealousy and racism in the world today. This story is about seeing these injustices and doing something about it.

“There is always somebody there to help, and that’s what England did for these kids,” he said.

Funk said he hopes cast members take what they’ve learned from this play and apply it to everyday life — that they go out someday and try to change the world. While they’re young — Miller South includes students in fourth through eighth grades — he said he would not have chosen to stage this show if he didn’t feel his students could handle the nature of the topic.

“I couldn’t have picked a better cast for this show,” he said.

Miller South is located at 1055 East Ave. Tickets for the performances are $15 for reserved VIP seating, $10 for adult general admission and $5 for student and senior general admission. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Miller South Box Office at 330-822-3762 or online at Brown Paper Tickets,

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